According to Wikipedia, wave/particle duality "is the concept in quantum mechanics that every particle or quantum entity may be described as either a particle or a wave." Albert Einstein wrote that the notion allows for "two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do."
Heady stuff to begin a column about art, but it’s the conceptual foundation for artist Katie Glusica’s beautiful fiber creations.
"I wasn’t that aware of my interest in art until later," she said during our conversation for this week’s episode of Art on the Air. "But I’ve always been very driven in science."
The SCAD MFA graduate-turned-professor first began exploring the connections between the two during her undergraduate education in the Crafts Department of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. As with all undergraduate students, she was taking a biology class as part of her general education requirements concurrently with the art courses for her major. During that time she started to notice that they weren’t as unrelated as academic advisers would have us believe.
"There was all of this cross-pollination going on between looking at the diagrams and thinking about just the majesty of the natural world, especially getting smaller and smaller," Glusica recalled. "Cellular diagrams - that was probably one of the first things I started using as a form in some of my artwork in the craft department."
She also noticed that weaving, while not exactly calculus, is heavily reliant on mathematics, but in a more intuitive rather than a written on paper sort of way.
"I would kind of joke/not joke with my teachers that weaving was my math class and glass-blowing was my physics class," laughed the artist.
To the uninitiated, it might seem a little far-fetched to equate such left and right brain activities. But listening to the way Glusica explains it, it makes perfect sense.
"Weaving is a two element process," she explained. "Your warp threads are what go on the loom first, and they are put under tension so they go from wavy, wavy threads into straight lines. And then you weave the weft in, the second element, perpendicularly to those warps and over under over under interlacing all of them.
"So that starts to be where I pull the metaphor that goes into my work," continued Glusica, "which is about wave particle duality and really non-dualities in general, of how things are one thing and another thing at the same time."
More explicitly, she was "spacing out one day," examining a piece of manufactured fabric, when the epiphany struck.
"I just was sort of mesmerized…with this realization that I am looking at something right now that is simultaneously this grid of individualized points, but also a collection of waves" as the woven threads pass over and under each other.
For Glusica, who has long been interested in blending science with her artistic practice, it often feels like we’re limiting ourselves when we build artificial walls between areas of study.
"When we talk about creativity a lot of times [we] the artists, we say we’re the creatives," she acknowledged. "But I kind of have some dispute with that term sometimes because really we need creativity in almost everything. Great science requires great creativity and breaking rules and being open to the unexpected."
"I think that that’s where the real power comes with crossing disciplines and realizing that we made up those rules to begin with," she added.
And when it comes to wave/particle duality, perhaps there’s a metaphorical application that applies to our society today.
"We have a lot of dichotomies and polarities and very black and white thinking," Glusica lamented. "These things are very useful tools and we love to set things aside and make them different and say, ‘That’s that over there,’ and, ‘This is this over here.’ But what does it mean if it’s not? And how does that open our ability to see things more similarly than always different and see differences as more of points of reference, not absolutes?"
Glusica’s "The Seen and Unseen: Weaving as a Metaphor for Wave/Particle Duality" was published in the April 2016 issue of the journal "Leonardo" and is available online for those who wish to dig deeper into the subject.
Learn more about her work by visiting KatieGlusica.com and by following @katieglusica on Instagram. You can listen to our entire conversation embedded here. Next week I’ll be speaking with fine art jeweler Danielle Hughes.
Tune in to "Art on the Air" every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on WRUU 107.5 FM in Savannah, and streaming worldwide at www.wruu.org.
Art off the Air is a digital-only column that is posted every week on dosavannah.com as a companion piece to the WRUU 107.5 FM show "Art on the Air."
Rob Hessler is an artist, host of the radio show Art on the Air on WRUU 107.5 FM Savannah, and Executive Director of Bigger Pie, a Savannah-based arts advocacy organization.